Hockey Night in Bavaria

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 12:13 PM ET

ANAHEIM -- It has become the routine over the past couple of months, a group of about 50 gathering at Billy's, a bar and restaurant in Straubing, Germany, at 2 a.m.

They gather around the TV set to watch Christoph Schubert and his Ottawa Senators teammates battle for the Stanley Cup.

Call it Hockey Night in Bavaria.

"The interest is pretty good here. The only problem is the time," said Stefan Dombroth, a good friend of Schubert's who's on the phone from the market town of close to 50,000 about 150 kilometres from Munich on the banks of the Danube.

"Most of the guys go home from work, sleep for a few hours and then watch the game."

Schubert and Dombroth met about five years ago at Billy's and became friends.

Schubert, 25, was born in Munich, but his parents are from Straubing and he spends his summers there.

Now he has a good following as he bids to become the second German player to win the Stanley Cup.

Defenceman Uwe Krupp, from Cologne, scored the Cup-winning goal when the Colorado Avalanche won it in 1996. That was about the time Schubert started following hockey.

Schubert now plays at the world level for Krupp, who is the coach of the German national team.

Schubert has worked his way into the NHL after being drafted by the Senators in the fourth round of the 2001 draft, 127th overall, spending three years in the minors.

A natural defenceman, the Senators coaching staff moved him to forward on the fourth line because they wanted his size, speed and hitting ability in the lineup. He still kills penalties as a defenceman when needed.

"This means a lot to me," said Schubert of reaching the final. "As an athlete, any time you get a chance to play for the biggest trophy in sports, you can be proud of yourself."

"(Schubert) is the first guy from Bavaria to go for the Stanley Cup," Dombroth said. "Everybody is really fond of him here. Everybody knows how hard he worked, going every year to Binghamton (of the AHL). I get about 10 calls a day. 'Did you talk to him today? How is he? How is he feeling?'

"Everybody really likes him because he stayed the same guy. Everybody here is cheering for him and the Senators."

Straubing is a bit of a hockey hot bed. Former Senators goaltender Mike Bales plays for the local team which attracts up to 7,000 fans a game, said Dombroth.

Interest in Schubert and the Stanley Cup is pretty limited outside of Straubing, said Schubert, who has been interviewed by a couple of reporters who have made the trip over from Germany.

"I made one statement, I said, 'sometimes it's a little bit embarrassing because there are seven players in the NHL and nobody at home knows about it. We have one guy in the NBA (Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks) and he gets all the attention.' People back home took it the wrong way. I was talking more about the media back home,'" said Schubert.

"If you look at Austria, the neighbouring country, they brought every single game from Buffalo (in the Eastern Conference championship) in live on their number one channel. In Germany? Nothing. You have to call your cable provider and get the North American channel and you have to pay for those. It's like a pay-per-view. Not everybody has it."

In addition to Schubert, the other German players in the NHL are San Jose Sharks Christian Ehrhoff and Marcel Goc, Boston's Marco Sturm, Olaf Kolzig of the Washington Capitals, Jochen Hecht of the Buffalo Sabres and Dennis Seidenberg of the Carolina Hurricanes.


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